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Frye-Mueller files lawsuit challenging Senate suspension

The Black Hills lawmaker ousted from the Senate is asking a judge to overturn her suspension from the chamber.

Julie Frye-Mueller says she was denied due process and free speech.

The Republican from District 30 wassuspended last week following an interaction with a Legislative Research Council staffer.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Federal District Court in Pierre. It seeks to reinstate her voting rights and prevent further actions until Senate proceedings against her are completed.

Frye-Mueller is being represented by former Speaker of the House Steve Haugaard.

The affidavit says the Senator’s expulsion violated the Senate’s own rules. It names Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck as the defendant.

Meantime, a disciplinary committee has been formed to investigate Frye-Mueller's interaction with the staffer. The Senate Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion holds its first meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. It will be streamed on

Senator David Wheeler is the chair of the select committee on discipline and expulsion. He says he will run the committee fairly and efficiently.

“We must balance due process considerations, protection on the employee, public transparency, democratic representation and institutional integrity,” Wheeler said Monday night. “It is my hope that when we have complete our work we will [have] struck the appropriate balance.”

Senator Frye-Mueller declined to comment on the committee.

Earlier Monday, Senate leaders released the statement the staffer wrote which brought the issue to their attention.

The staffer alleges Senator Frye-Mueller asked about whether they vaccinated their baby. The staffer said yes.

The staffer further said the Senator “aggressively” pointed at them and said the baby "'could get down syndrome, or autism. She further went on to say that 'he will die from those vaccines.'"

In a statement last week, Frye-Muller said she did not discuss the COVID 19 vaccine, but instead talked about her stance on “medical freedom.”

The staffer also alleges Frye-Muller gave some unsolicited breast-feeding advice.

Senators placed the statement and a January 10 letter of guidelines from legislative leaders to lawmakers outlining how and when they can interact with LRC staff.

“If LRC staff have reason to view legislative behavior to be inappropriate, that staff member will inform the respective supervisor and the director. Assessing the facts and situation, the director will decide whether the occurrence requires the attention of the legislator’s respective presiding officer and caucus leader,” the letter reads.

Senators hope to wrap up the investigation by this week.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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